Having children is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. They are innocent, loving, and have a natural ability to bring joy into our lives. Unfortunately, not all parents are created equal. In fact, some parents are downright dangerous and unfit to care for their children. This can result from mental illness, drug addiction, or even physical abuse.
If you are in the process of getting a divorce and have children with your spouse, you may have custody concerns. If you believe that your ex-spouse is unfit to care for your children, there are certain things you can do to prove their unfit status in court. Working directly with an experienced family law attorney can help you through this process and ensure that your children are placed in a safe and loving home.
What Various Forms of Child Custody Look Like in Kansas City
In Missouri, there are two primary types of child custody: physical and legal. Physical custody has to do with where the child will live most of the time and with which parent. Legal custody, on the other hand, dictates which parent will have the right to make decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and other important aspects of their life. In some cases, both parents will have joint physical and legal custody of the child, meaning they will both play an active role in their life.
Other terms you may hear when discussing child custody include sole custody, shared custody, and primary custody. Sole custody means that only one parent has either physical or legal custody of the child. Shared custody is when both parents have joint physical and legal custody of the child, and they share decision-making power. Primary custody is simply another term for sole custody.
Factors That the Court May Consider When Determining Child Custody
The court always puts the child’s best interests first when deciding on child custody. With that being said, there are several different factors that the court may consider when making its determination, including:
- The child’s age
- The child’s health
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Each parent’s work schedule
- The child’s schooling
- The child’s extracurricular activities
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable home life
- The child’s preference (if the child is old enough to express a preference)
- Any history of domestic violence or abuse
- Any history of drug or alcohol abuse
- The mental health of each parent
Each of these items is extremely vital when the court is making its decision about child custody. It is important to note that the court may consider other factors as well, so it is imperative to hire an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the process and be best prepared for success.
Proving That an Ex-Spouse Is Unfit for Child Custody
If you are deeply concerned about your ex-spouse’s ability to care for your child, you may be wondering how you can prove their unfit status in court. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The best approach is to work with an experienced family law attorney who can tailor the approach to best fit your unique situation.
There are a few general tips that may be helpful as you begin to build your case.
First, it is important to keep a detailed record of all instances in which you believe your ex-spouse has behaved in an unfit manner. This may include instances of violence, drug or alcohol abuse, neglect, or anything else you believe demonstrates their inability to care for your child.
It is also important to collect any evidence you may have to back up your claims. Unfortunately, your word (or the word of close friends and family) isn’t enough to prove another parent’s fitness for custody. Taking away parental rights is something the courts take very seriously. This could include things like:
- Home video footage. If you have any home video footage of your ex-spouse behaving in an abusive or neglectful manner, this can be helpful in court. It will be difficult for any judge to ignore clear evidence of abuse or neglect.
- Photos. Photos can also be helpful in court, especially if they show visible injuries or signs of neglect. It’s also helpful to validate when these photos were taken in relation to events by including the date the photo was taken. If they were taken on a cell phone, you can also print out the date and time the photo was taken from the phone.
- Witness statements. If you have any witnesses who are willing to speak about your ex-spouse’s behavior, their testimony can be helpful in court. This is especially true if the witness is not related to either parent, as their testimony will be less likely to be seen as biased.
- Text messages, social media posts, and emails. Any written communication from your ex-spouse that seems to corroborate your claims of abuse or neglect can be helpful in court. These digital communications can be harder to access after the fact, so it’s important to take screenshots and save them as soon as possible.
- Medical records. If your child has ever been seen by a doctor or other medical professional for injuries that your ex-spouse caused, their medical records can be helpful in court. These records can provide valuable documentation of the abuse or neglect that your child has experienced.
- Police reports. If you have ever had to call the police because of your ex-spouse’s behavior, their police reports can be helpful in court, giving valuable documentation of any specific abuse or neglect experienced.
Find an Experienced KC Custody Attorney
Keep in mind that any evidence you present in court will need to be relevant to the claims you are making about your ex-spouse’s behavior. The best way to ensure that your evidence is relevant and admissible in court is to work with an experienced family law attorney. Contact your Kansas City divorce lawyer today for more information on exactly how to devise the best strategy for your case. Your children deserve to be in a safe and healthy environment, and a strategic partnership with the right attorney can help make that happen.